Posts Tagged ‘home education’

When we started contemplating homeschooling, we, like many others, had a somewhat formed idea of what homeschooling was. Mostly it looked like this: kids sitting around a table with books spread; pencils in hand, listening to Mom teach and writing when instructed.

Are you nodding your head?  😀

Before we decided to take the plunge, I was warned by an experienced school administrator that, “Most people who try homeschooling only last a year or two, before they come to realize that it’s too much, and the schools are better equipped to teach.” This was couched with an unsaid qualifier of “And take it from me, I’ve had years of experience with this and know this to be fact.”  Or maybe it was actually said out loud. It’s been a long time.  😆

This was one of the reasons we chose Clonlara as our vehicle of support.  After all, we were getting a skills book and a contact teacher.  Surely this would count as having our bases covered?

Now that I had that angle taken care of, I needed to figure out what I was going to teach. While I had heard whispers of other ways of homeschooling (surely, you jest!) my husband and I felt, based on our preconceived notion of “homeschooling,” that curriculum of some sort was required. Well, ok, he felt it more, and I was scared to fail, so it seemed like a some kind of curriculum or learning method was the best route to take; especially, since you know, most people send their kids back to school after the first or second year.  Who was I to argue? 

I knew above all, that should homeschooling not work for us, I didn’t want that time at home to have been detrimental and set them back because I wasn’t capable of teaching them what they needed to know. This first year, my son would have been in 2nd grade, and while my oldest daughter was not old enough to start school yet (she was still 5 and with a winter birthday, she completely missed the cut-off date for kindergarten), I figured kindergarten was going to be an extension of what we were already doing.

In my internet travels, I came across all kinds of articles on transitioning from the school to home environment.  Enter the first bit of jargon: deschooling.

Deschooling. This is not to be confused with unschooling. We’ll get to unschooling later. Nope, deschooling most usually refers to the time when your child is making the adjustment from the confines of the formal school setting to the loosey-goosey home setting whereby he or she can go to the bathroom at will-  without raising a hand and asking for permission and having all classroom eyes on him or her, thereby totally embarrassing him or her. This applies to getting something to eat or drink, stretching the legs, or reading a book or anything else that is strictly controlled or prohibited in the formal classroom setting.

There is no set time frame for deschooling. This mostly depends on the child and the level of trauma suffered by the child in the formal setting.  Lest anyone think I’m joking, this is a very serious topic. 

I know of one child last year whose parents made the decision to remove all three of their kids from our local public school system.  By the time they came to my weekly class, it had been a few weeks out of the formal school setting already.  The older two seemed to be adjusting pretty well; mostly quiet and reserved, but attentive.  The youngest, who was 7/8, literally stayed outside the entire time, sitting by the door.

2 months later, he was still outside the room, sitting in the doorway, but would come into the class and sit on the floor near his mom. He had finally been willing to get outside on the playground with the others, but mostly stuck tight to his older siblings.

If you have never seen a traumatized child resulting from a school setting, it is quite simply heartbreaking. He had nothing to fear from us, but *he* didn’t know that. And it’s going to take a while for him to decompress and learn to trust again.

Deschooling. Decompressing.  It’s an important time. Some people do nothing during this time.  Some do just educational games.  Some do nothing but reading. We took the summer off and it was a normal summer of fun.  In hindsight, I feel really lucky that my oldest was only in the school system for 2 years because there was not a whole lot we had to undo.

While we were deschooling that summer, I was enrolling in Clonlara and attempting to gather information.  It was during this time that my head started to spin with possibilities.  I started learning and understanding the differences between the types of schooling options, and came to a grand realization: Because of my state’s homeschooling laws, the door was wide open for me!!

I had been reading a lot, too (as if that’s any surprise :lol:), and my philosophy on homeschooling really started to line up better with my philosophy on parenting, and life in general. I had suffered through school; studying what was required of me by my parents and by the school, as one who was on the “college track.”  The only thing that made school bearable was the extra curricular stuff I was involved with, and knowing that it couldn’t last forever.  Once I was grown up, I could do what I wanted to do, and set my own schedule.  This is where the irony caught up to me from my Why Homeschool? post.

Along my reading travels, I started noticing more and more terms that I was unfamiliar with.  Terms like unchooling, unit studies, school-at-home, child-led learning, classical curriculum, and pre-packaged curriculum.  Huh?

Some terms, like cyber-school, didn’t really exist, or at least not in the format we have today. Some terms made sense, like unit studies.

Yep, unit studies are just what they sound like- picking a pretty specific topic and then studying it. We’ve done unit studies on all kinds of things; Egypt, mummies (which was kind of part of the Egypt unit study, but there are so many places besides Egypt that have their own mummies that we felt we needed to do more than one study); pirates, gladiators, the Amazonian rainforest, etc etc etc.

Unit studies can be part of a pre-packaged curriculum, or they can be separate.  They can be free, too, using libraries and the internet to supplement your activities. Unit studies typically incorporate all subjects around a central theme.

So, for example, if you pick mummies as your unit study, you could write a story about mummies (language arts). Your science would be learning what has to happen to make a body into a mummy (a good experiment is mummifying an apple, as one example).  Your history and geography would be learning about specific places mummies are found (Egypt, for example).  You could listen to music or study other cultural practices that revolve around the mummy’s country of origin. Your art could be drawing something related to mummies, or making a pyramid out of clay (that could actually be math, too.)  The opportunities are endless!

You can do the same unit study with a variety of ages. Unit studies can be entirely child-led, where the child picks a topic they want to study and then they find the resources and materials.  Unless they are driving age, this generally requires some parental involvement. 😀

Pre-packaged curriculum is pretty self-explanatory, too. You buy stuff that’s already put together.  You can get entire grade levels (which then, imo, puts you in the school-at-home category, which is not quite the same as homeschooling, again, in my opinion), or you can buy subjects/topics ala carte, and use them as unit studies.

Classical education has some debate.  Some will say it’s based on the rigorous Trivium method of instruction; some will consider a Charlotte Mason education to fall into this category.  Others will say that those reading the “classics” fall into this category. Still others will tell you that if you aren’t learning Latin, you don’t fall into this category.  Either way, this was not our cup of tea, so to speak, and thank goodness it isn’t required!  😀 (A future post will delve more deeply into some of these options.)

That first year, we leaned more toward the child-led learning part of the home education curve.  Generally speaking, child-led learning and unschooling often go hand in hand. Unschoolers typically believe that the world is the classroom, and using child-led learning, learning never stops and is an ongoing process.  While I admit to occasionally giving a helping hand and giving learning material :lol:, by in large, this is the approach we have taken with our kids.

Before you go throwing stones at me for using some pre-packaged curriculum for the older kids while still claiming to unschool, let me just say that I’m not big on labels.  😆  I think labels are rarely completely accurate and are usually more confining and detrimental than helpful (can you see my eyebrow raised? :D). Some might consider us relaxed or eclectic, and maybe even teetering on the edge of schooling-at-home with the oldest.

But let there be no mistake: we are homeschooling, even though at this point in some of the kids’ educational careers there is cause to do more school-at-home than in the past. Although there may be some curriculum being used, one could argue (certainly not me, though, because I never argue :lol:) that we’re still unschooling because it was requested by the child, as part of his child-led learning interests.

The important thing to understand here is that labels don’t matter. Your child matters. Understanding your homeschooling laws and understanding how best your child learns can go a long way to finding a learning style that not only can you both live with, but actually enjoy!

There is, of course, more jargon. We haven’t even touched on cover schools, co-ops, portfolios, and umbrella schools. If you want additional terms and perspectives, here are some links to get you started:






Questions?  Need more information?  Feel free to leave me a comment!  😀

Read Full Post »

After spending two miserable years in the public school system and watching our son’s personality start to change in addition to his enthusiasm for learning grind to a halt, it hadn’t taken a lot for us to realize that something needed to change. We thought about private school, of course, and while budgetary concerns were on the list, I had come to realize that “this kind” of education- sitting at a desk, being forced to do everything on someone else’s time-table, etc- was just not going to mesh.  Not only was it not meshing with our son, it wasn’t meshing with *us* and our philosophy about life in general. (Side note: While my husband’s feeling on the school situation was in complete agreement with mine, we weren’t completely on the same page with homeschooling philosophy.  We’ll talk about communicating and coming to a place of agreement with partners in a later post.)

As parents, we had spent the early years basically Attachment Parenting. We were not directly involved with the organization, but nonetheless, our philosophy and theirs was agreeable.  Without going down that rabbit trail, in a nutshell, attachment parenting in its most basic form is about understanding and responding to the needs of your child.  All you API folks know there is more to it, but at its most basic, this about sums it up.

We spent all those early years responding to cues, and nurturing accordingly.  We spent those early years encouraging and supporting interests. Now we’re in school, and everything is done not based on the child, but based on the adults there and what they deem “important.”  You, the parent, who to this point knew your child best, suddenly doesn’t know spit.  And you have to shut up and obey, too, because after all, the professionals know what is best.

Obviously, I could rant on this for a really long time.  😆  I will say that even today, I know good people who are good teachers, siblings included.  I am friends with a good number of very good teachers.

I am, however, glad to live in a country where we have options. 😀

Those of you who have been reading along (or know me) know that I research things.  Some would say I research obsessively.  😆  I say I research until I get to the point where I feel that I know enough to make an educated, informed decision. I admire all those folks I know that have gone before me on the homeschooling quest without the benefit of computers.  😆  I don’t know that I would have had enough courage otherwise.

When we started kicking around the idea of homeschooling, I heard all kinds of things.  One of those things was “If you aren’t a licensed teacher, you aren’t allowed to homeschool.”  This didn’t ring true, and off I went to gather information.

One thing I learned on this particular quest was that laws pertaining to homeschooling are different in every state. Since I had been on a large homeschooling email list, I knew that people were doing all kinds of things for homeschooling- some had portfolios to submit; some had to meet with the school district to get their curriculum approved, etc.

This got me wondering- if you are having to do all the same things as the school does, what is the benefit of homeschooling?  I mean, why bother? I’ll address that in another post later, because it is a valid question in its own right.

On my quest for knowledge (and yes, I’m thinking a Monty Python type of quest here), I learned that in addition to every state having its own laws on homeschooling, not all homeschooling is the same. That’s right.  Let me say it again:  Not all homeschooling is the same.

Before I go into the details on some homeschooling terminology in my next post, let’s talk about the homeschooling laws.  Because each state has its own laws and requirements regarding homeschooling, these laws do (and probably should) affect your approach to home-based learning.


For example, in Pennsylvania, some of the regulations read like this:

“3. Parent/supervisor must annually maintain and provide the superintendent with “certain documentation. This is due by June 30th:”

a. A portfolio of records and materials. This includes a “log, made contemporaneously with the instruction, which designates by title the reading materials used, samples of any writings, worksheets, workbooks or creative materials used or developed by the student.” § 13-1327.1(e)(1);

b. “An annual written evaluation of the student’s educational progress” by (1) a licensed psychologist, (2) or a teacher certified by the state (with two years of teaching experience), (3) or a nonpublic school teacher or administrator (who must have at least two years teaching experience in the last ten years in public or nonpublic schools). At the request of the supervisor, persons with other qualifications may conduct the evaluation with the prior consent of the local superintendent. The evaluation shall be based on an interview and review of the portfolio and it “shall certify whether or not an appropriate education is occurring.” § 13-1327.1(e)(2); “

And that’s one of the ways to homeschool in Pennsylvania. There are 5 options for homeschooling in Pa, each with their own set of rules and regulations. In New York, parents have to submit an Individualized Home Instruction Plan (IHIP) for each child. In addition, there are rules for mandatory testing, annual assessments and quarterly reports. These states are considered “high regulation” states, and for good reason.

I’m glad I don’t live in Pa or NY!

In Texas, for example, “homeschools do not have to initiate contact with a school district, submit to home visits, have curriculum approved or have any specific teacher certification.”

In Oklahoma, along with no notice required to homeschool, “it is the only state with a constitutional provision guaranteeing the right to home school.“

I happen to live in a state where homeschooling regulations are low. We have to notify the state each year, but there is no mandatory testing or submission of anything to anyone.

Knowing your homeschooling laws is important. Knowing what you have to do or don’t have to do can have a huge impact on the approach you take to homeschooling your kids. Early on, I stumbled across the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) website. Hands down, this site has the best overview of state laws I have found anywhere. One of the things I appreciate most is that non-members (like me) can still access most of the information.

Thanks to Google and other search engines, you will be amazed at the resources you can find to connect to people who are or are interested in homeschooling. Finding and connecting with people in your state/area who are homeschooling can be a really important part of taking the homeschooling plunge, because, let’s face it, sometimes wading through the information on the state website can be daunting, overwhelming, and downright discouraging.

Do schools want you homeschooling? My feeling is “Of course not!” Schools get money based on attendance. If you homeschool your children, your school district doesn’t get federal or state funding for your child. Another issue is about control and losing the ability to have sovereignty where your kids are concerned. Some people would rather not have to be responsible for their children, and while I could write a book on my feelings about that, I’ll spare you for now. 😉

One example of confusing or discouraging information comes from the California Department of Education (CDE) website’s section on homeschooling. It says,Is schooling at home recognized in California as exempting a student from public school attendance?

California statutes do not explicitly authorize home schooling. Whether a home schooled child is attending a private school, and therefore is exempt from public school attendance, is a decision made by local school districts and law enforcement authorities.”

Well gee. I guess that solves that question, doesn’t it? If California doesn’t authorize homeschooling, and I can’t afford private school, I guess that means I can’t homeschool in California.  Right?

Not so fast. In reality, what this means is that those wanting to homeschool who aren’t otherwise affiliated with a home education program would have to register as a “private school.” As someone who was considering homeschooling and looking at options, without having a good support system in place, this might have been a deal-breaker for me.  I don’t have the inclination to start a business and find the regulations to start a school.  I really just want my kids home and learning.

But what does it really mean?  It means that you register as a private school.  While it sounds overwhelming, once you do the research, you learn that it’s actually not very hard.  A look through the Private School Affidavit will show you that it’s really more bark than bite. A good guide to starting homeschooling in Ca can be found here.

So, know your state laws. Find support. Connect with others who are homeschooling in your state/area and can help walk you through your options if you want to learn from those who are doing it. Research is critical to understanding options, but there is no replacing the support you can get from those who have been there and are doing (or have done) it. Once you understand what homeschooling options are available to you, you can start to sort through and work out a plan for what you’d like to start with.

Next in this series, we’re going to take a look at homeschooling terminology/jargon. It can be hard not to get overwhelmed with the language. When we first started, I had in mind that everyone was using curriculum and that “homeschooling was homeschooling was homeschooling.” You may be surprised at what I’ve learned!

Stay tuned….tomorrow we are going to Wade Through the Jargon! 🙂


The beginning of this series is Why Homeschool? You can find all the articles in this series along with resource links on the Homeschooling page.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: